Jerusalem— After completing a 15-year-sentence, Lina al-Jarbouni, a Palestinian citizen who has been incarcerated in Israel’s HaSharon prison since 2002 because of her resistance to Israeli occupation, has been finally released.
al-Jarbouni is considered the longest-serving female Palestinian prisoner. That’s why she has won the title of “dean of Palestinian women prisoners”.
Lina Al-Jarbouni is from Arabba Al-Batouf village, near the Palestinian City of Akka (Akko - Acre), in the north of the country. She was born to a Palestinian family on January 11, 1974.
Al-Jarbouni, 40 years old, is among nine sisters and eight brothers. She received her primary and secondary education in the village school, and received her high school degree in 1992.
The economic situation of her family prevented her from pursuing university education, so she was forced to work in a sewing workshop.
Al-Jarbouni’s Family: A History Of Sacrifice & Resistance:
Lina Al-Jarbouni comes from a family known for its sacrifices and contribution to the Palestinian resistance. Her grandfather Haj Ali was one of the resistance fighters during the revolution of 1936, as well as through the Nakba of 1948, her father was imprisoned several times by Israeli forces on political issues, and her uncle Omar was killed in Lebanon fighting Israeli occupation soldiers when they invaded Lebanon in 1982.
On the early hours of April 18, 2002, more than 30 Israeli army vehicles surrounded Al-Jarbouni’s family house, and Israeli occupation soldiers kidnapped her and her brother Saeed. Both were taken handcuffed and blindfolded to Al-Jalameh detention center. She remained 30 days in interrogation cells, and was subjected to various forms of psychological torture such as insults, isolation and sleep deprivation.
During this time, Al-Jarbouni’s sister Lames was also arrested, to pressure her into confessing, but she remained steadfast. Lina Al-Jarbouni was charged with “contacting the enemy”, providing assistance for resistance operations, and membership in Hamas, and sentenced by the District Court in the city of Haifa to 17 years in jail.
A Harrowing Story of Suffering Behind Bars:
Al-Jarbouni was held in HaSharon prison (Tel Mond) and suffered from various diseases, such as permanent headache, swelling in the feet and infections in the gallbladder, which caused her severe cramps and pain. She underwent surgery, and her gallbladder was completely removed by laser. Consequently, she needed medical follow-up, yet she suffered from deliberate medical negligence. It is worth mentioning that the IPS repeatedly refused to release her, as she spent two-thirds of her sentence.
During her imprisonment, Al-Jarbouni represented the faithful, steadfast and struggling woman who does not yield to detention and torture. Her determination is emblematic of the real Palestinian stance throughout years of resistance against Israeli occupation.
Struggler without Boundaries:
Al-Jarbouni was the elected representative of the Palestinian women prisoners in HaSharon prison and known for her advocacy for Palestinian girls’ right to education inside prisons.
By testimonials of her fellow prisoners, Al-Jarbouni was characterized by her tenacity, her inbred leadership personality and one-in-a-million top charisma that often forced Israeli prison officials to pay attention to and provide treatment to her fellow women prisoners, especially the wounded women, such as prisoner Yasmin Zerou.
One female prisoner attests to this statement by saying: “Al-Jarbouni was literally everything to her fellow female prisoners; she was their mother, sister, friend, teacher, mentor, caretaker, cook, and most importantly their spokesperson. She would teach them Arabic and Hebrew languages, enlighten them on topic of jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis and its moods of recitations, and enrich their understanding of the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime and biography, besides her great mastery over other branches of knowledge.”
She continues: “Al-Jarbouni used to teach her fellow female prisoners the principle of Hebrew language as she had mastered it during her years-long time in Israeli jails. She also shared her manual skills by teaching them embroidery and sewing.”
Throughout her years inside prison, Al-Jarbouni was always on the front lines of struggle, involved in hunger strikes, prisoner organizing and protest. She was thrown in solitary confinement for her participation in prisoner protests and denied appropriate medical care for ongoing illnesses, yet always remained committed to building resistance and mutual solidarity among the women prisoners.
Despite an agreement to release all women prisoners in the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange, Jarbouni (and several other women serving shorter sentences) was excluded from the exchange as a Palestinian citizen of Israel and so remained imprisoned for over five years after her fellow prisoners were released.
Freedom Fighter After Release
As we enter Palestinian Prisoners’ Day 2017, it is compelling to recall Lina al-Jarbouni’s words one year before her release, which echo with us, on this day, very loudly and proudly:
“On Prisoners’ Day, I greet the Palestinian people and all of the free people of the world…Hundreds of women prisoners held behind bars have stood firm in the struggle, along with the sons of our people, confirming that the Palestinian women are struggling against the occupation and fighting for social justice, emancipation and equality in all spheres of life.
On this day, we salute the longest-serving prisoner Karim Younis, and all of the prisoners throughout Palestine, the Palestinian prisoners’ national movement, and the Arab prisoners, and we salute the child prisoners, boys and girls, sick prisoners, and those in solitary confinement and all of our steadfast people. We assure you that we are held as captives behind bars, but we are free in our minds, and in our convictions. Our freedom remains in our hope and our conviction in the freedom of Palestine.”